09 Jul 2019

40% of UK council websites not considered accessible

40% of UK council websites not considered accessible

When I mentioned accessibility in web design years ago people did a face. You know, the one that is disconcertingly blank in a desperate attempt to remain neutral about something they don’t understand.
Times have changed though, I now get ‘the squint’, the “I’m vaguely aware of this but tell me more” squint. My aim is to transform more blank expressions in to squints at the very least. If you find what I’m about to share with you helpful then I’ll have achieved just that.


Accessibility regulations exist for good reason.

It’s to ensure an app or website can be used by as many people as possible including the 1 in 5 of us in the UK with a long term illness, impairment or disability. This could be impaired vision, motor difficulties, cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, deafness or impaired hearing to name but a few. Not to mention similar temporary difficulties.


Councils are under the most pressure.

Any public sector websites published after 22 September 2018 have until 22 September 2019 to adhere to these regulations. Panic set in with councils UK wide when
270 council websites were put to the test and results showed that 40% of homepages were not considered accessible to people with disabilities. 

Only the homepages were tested and this was done using automated tools and manual checking by a fantastic team of people all with some form of disability.


Results were pretty interesting!

86% of the council websites failed because their homepage lacked ‘visible focus indicators’. These highlight links, tabs and other key elements. If they aren’t present, keyboard only users are unable to navigate the website, find content, or determine where they are on a page or app.
71% lost points as they were missing ‘skip links’, these are used mainly by screen reader users so they can bypass repetitive content. The absence of skip links wouldn’t result in a fail though as they are considered more of an inconvenience, they don’t actually prevent the user from completing their journey.
64% were marked down for a lack of ‘meaningful links in context’. Links like ‘click here’ and ‘more’ aren’t helpful for blind users who use screen reading software. They need descriptive links that will make sense when read out of context.
35% of sites tested were let down by their movement. This impacts not only cognitive impaired, dyslexic and low vision users but also blind users with screen reading software. It is preferable to have the ability to pause movement that lasts for over five seconds.


Other issues cropped up.

Attention also needed to be paid to:

Good heading structure (63%) - Users who can see the page decide within seconds whether or not the content is relevant to them by skimming through headings. From an accessibility point of view the structure in the code should align with the visual presentation so this can be conveyed even with a screen reader.

Appropriate text alternatives for images (39%) - Used to describe the appearance and function of an image on a page for those who have difficulty seeing it.

Sufficient colour contrast (49%) - Some users have difficulty perceiving text if there is too little contrast between foreground and background.


Accessibility can be summarised simply.

Make your design and the content within it is clear and simple enough that the majority of people can use it without having to adapt it, while supporting those who need to.

Thanks to tests like this, some council’s have improved their websites. Good job too considering people with disabilities account for around 15% of the UK population.

We here at focusgov feel it is our duty to heighten awareness of accessibility and work closely with councils across the UK to make sure they stay among the 60% that get it right. Personally I’m hoping to turn the unsure squints in to knowing nods. If you think we can help you with accessibility or a digital solution to any problem, please do not hesitate to get in touch

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